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Mental health comorbidities in workers’ compensation patients and the effect on pain, disability, quality of life, and return to work after lumbar spine surgery

Steve H. Monk, Ummey Hani, Gerry Stanley, Deborah Pfortmiller, Paul K. Kim, Michael A. Bohl, Christopher M. Holland, and Matthew J. McGirt

OBJECTIVE

The impact of mental health comorbidities on outcomes after lumbar spine surgery in workers’ compensation (WC) patients has not been robustly explored. The goal of this study was to examine the impact of mental health comorbidities on pain, disability, quality of life, and return to work after lumbar spine surgery in WC patients.

METHODS

A nationwide, prospective surgical outcomes registry (National Neurosurgery Quality Outcomes Database [N2QOD]) was queried for all patients who underwent 1- to 4-level lumbar decompression and/or fusion from 2012 to 2021. Patients were stratified on the basis of compensation status into non-WC (25,507) and WC (1018) cohorts. Baseline demographic data, perioperative safety data, and patient-reported outcome measures were compared between groups. The WC cohort was further subdivided on the basis of mental health status into patients with anxiety and depression (n = 107) and those without anxiety and depression (n = 911). Propensity matching was used to generate parity between these subgroups, generating 214 patients (107 pairs) for analysis. Perioperative safety, facility utilization, 1-year patient-reported outcomes (back and leg pain, disability, and quality of life), and return to work were measured as a function of WC and mental health comorbidity status.

RESULTS

A total of 26,525 patients (25,507 non-WC and 1018 WC) who underwent 1- to 4-level lumbar spine surgery were reviewed. WC patients were younger, healthier (lower American Society of Anesthesiologists class), more likely to be minorities, less educated, and more likely to smoke and had greater baseline back pain, disability, and quality of life compared to non-WC patients. The prevalence of anxiety and depression was similar between groups (11%). WC patients had worse outcomes for all measures and lower rates of return to work compared to non-WC patients. WC patients with anxiety and depression demonstrated even greater disparities in all outcomes. After propensity matching, WC patients with anxiety and depression continued to demonstrate significantly worse outcomes in comparison to WC patients without anxiety and depression.

CONCLUSIONS

Disparities in outcomes after lumbar spine surgery in WC patients are exacerbated in patients with anxiety and depression. WC patients with mental health comorbidities receive the least benefit from lumbar spine surgery and may represent the most vulnerable subset of patients with spine pathology. Addressing mental health comorbidities preoperatively may represent an opportunity for valuable resource allocation and surgical optimization in the WC population.

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Effect of workers’ compensation status on pain, disability, quality of life, and return to work after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion: a 1-year propensity score–matched analysis

Ummey Hani, Steve H. Monk, Deborah Pfortmiller, Gerry Stanley, Paul K. Kim, Michael A. Bohl, Christopher M. Holland, and Matthew J. McGirt

OBJECTIVE

Patients with workers’ compensation (WC) claims are reported to demonstrate poorer surgical outcomes after lumbar spine surgery. However, outcomes after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) in WC patients remain debatable. The authors aimed to compare outcomes between a propensity score–matched population of WC and non-WC patients who underwent ACDF.

METHODS

Patients who underwent 1- to 4-level ACDF were retrospectively reviewed from the prospectively maintained Quality Outcomes Database (QOD). After propensity score matching, 1-year patient satisfaction, physical disability (Neck Disability Index [NDI]), pain (visual analog scale [VAS]), EQ-5D, and return to work were compared between WC and non-WC cohorts.

RESULTS

A total of 9957 patients were included (9610 non-WC and 347 WC patients). Patients in the WC cohort were significantly younger (50 ± 9.1 vs 56 ± 11.4 years, p < 0.001), less educated, and were more frequently male, non-Caucasian, and active smokers (29.1% vs 18.1%, p < 0.001), with greater baseline VAS and NDI scores and poorer quality of life (p < 0.001). One-year postoperative improvements in VAS, NDI, EQ-5D, and return-to-work rates and satisfaction were all significantly worse for WC compared with non-WC patients. After adjusting for baseline differences via propensity score matching, WC versus non-WC patients continued to demonstrate worse 3- and 12-month VAS neck pain and NDI (p = 0.010), satisfaction (χ2 = 4.03, p = 0.045), and delayed return to work (9.3 vs 5.7 weeks, p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

WC status was associated with greater 1-year residual disability and axial pain along with delayed return to work, without any difference in quality of life despite having fewer comorbidities and being a younger population. Further studies are needed to determine the societal impact that WC claims have on healthcare delivery in the setting of ACDF.

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Effect of workers’ compensation status on pain, disability, quality of life, and return to work after lumbar spine surgery: a 1-year propensity-matched analysis

Ummey Hani, Steve H. Monk, Deborah Pfortmiller, Gerry Stanley, Paul K. Kim, Michael A. Bohl, Christopher M. Holland, and Matthew J. McGirt

OBJECTIVE

Workers’ compensation (WC) and litigation have been shown to adversely impact prognoses in a vast range of health conditions. Low-back pain is currently the most frequent reason for WC claims. The objective of this study was to conduct the largest propensity-matched comparison of outcomes between patients with WC and non-WC status who underwent lumbar spinal decompression with and without fusion.

METHODS

Complete data sets for patients who underwent 1- to 4-level lumbar spinal fusion or decompression alone were retrospectively retrieved from the Quality Outcomes Database (QOD), which included 1-year patient-reported outcomes from more than 200 hospital systems collected from 2012 to 2021. Population demographics, perioperative safety, facility utilization, patient satisfaction, disability, pain, EQ-5D quality of life, and return to work (RTW) rates were compared between cohorts for both subgroups. Statistical significance was set at p < 0.05.

RESULTS

There were 29,652 patients included in the study. Laminectomy was performed in 16,939 with non-WC status and in 615 with WC, whereas fusion was performed in 11,767 with non-WC status and in 331 with WC. WC patients were more frequently male, a minority race, younger, less educated, more frequently a smoker, had a healthier American Society of Anesthesiologists grade, and with greater baseline visual analog scale (VAS) and Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) scores (p < 0.001). One-year postoperative improvements in VAS, ODI, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), RTW rates, and satisfaction were all significantly worse for WC versus non-WC patients for both procedures. After adjusting for baseline differences via propensity matching, WC versus non-WC patients continued to demonstrate worse 3- and 12-month VAS and ODI scores, reduced 12-month QALY gain, and delayed RTW after both procedure types.

CONCLUSIONS

WC status was associated with significantly greater residual disability and pain postoperatively, a lower quality of life, and delayed RTW. Utilizing resources to identify the negative influences on outcomes for WC patients may be valuable in preoperative optimization and could yield better outcomes in these patients.

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A memorial to Clint Devin: spine surgeon, researcher, and mentor

Silky Chotai, Scott L. Zuckerman, Ahilan Sivaganesan, Anthony L. Asher, and Matthew J. McGirt

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Quality Outcomes Database Spine Care Project 2012–2020: milestones achieved in a collaborative North American outcomes registry to advance value-based spine care and evolution to the American Spine Registry

Anthony L. Asher, John Knightly, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Mohammed Ali Alvi, Matthew J. McGirt, Yagiz U. Yolcu, Andrew K. Chan, Steven D. Glassman, Kevin T. Foley, Jonathan R. Slotkin, Eric A. Potts, Mark E. Shaffrey, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Regis W. Haid Jr., Kai-Ming Fu, Michael Y. Wang, Paul Park, Erica F. Bisson, Robert E. Harbaugh, and Mohamad Bydon

The Quality Outcomes Database (QOD), formerly known as the National Neurosurgery Quality Outcomes Database (N2QOD), was established by the NeuroPoint Alliance (NPA) in collaboration with relevant national stakeholders and experts. The overarching goal of this project was to develop a centralized, nationally coordinated effort to allow individual surgeons and practice groups to collect, measure, and analyze practice patterns and neurosurgical outcomes. Specific objectives of this registry program were as follows: “1) to establish risk-adjusted national benchmarks for both the safety and effectiveness of neurosurgical procedures, 2) to allow practice groups and hospitals to analyze their individual morbidity and clinical outcomes in real time, 3) to generate both quality and efficiency data to support claims made to public and private payers and objectively demonstrate the value of care to other stakeholders, 4) to demonstrate the comparative effectiveness of neurosurgical and spine procedures, 5) to develop sophisticated ‘risk models’ to determine which subpopulations of patients are most likely to benefit from specific surgical interventions, and 6) to facilitate essential multicenter trials and other cooperative clinical studies.” The NPA has launched several neurosurgical specialty modules in the QOD program in the 7 years since its inception including lumbar spine, cervical spine, and spinal deformity and cerebrovascular and intracranial tumor. The QOD Spine modules, which are the primary subject of this paper, have evolved into the largest North American spine registries yet created and have resulted in unprecedented cooperative activities within our specialty and among affiliated spine care practitioners. Herein, the authors discuss the experience of QOD Spine programs to date, with a brief description of their inception, some of the key achievements and milestones, as well as the recent transition of the spine modules to the American Spine Registry (ASR), a collaboration between the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

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A predictive model and nomogram for predicting return to work at 3 months after cervical spine surgery: an analysis from the Quality Outcomes Database

Clinton J. Devin, Mohamad Bydon, Mohammed Ali Alvi, Panagiotis Kerezoudis, Inamullah Khan, Ahilan Sivaganesan, Matthew J. McGirt, Kristin R. Archer, Kevin T. Foley, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Erica F. Bisson, John J. Knightly, Christopher I. Shaffrey, and Anthony L. Asher

OBJECTIVE

Back pain and neck pain are two of the most common causes of work loss due to disability, which poses an economic burden on society. Due to recent changes in healthcare policies, patient-centered outcomes including return to work have been increasingly prioritized by physicians and hospitals to optimize healthcare delivery. In this study, the authors used a national spine registry to identify clinical factors associated with return to work at 3 months among patients undergoing a cervical spine surgery.

METHODS

The authors queried the Quality Outcomes Database registry for information collected from April 2013 through March 2017 for preoperatively employed patients undergoing cervical spine surgery for degenerative spine disease. Covariates included demographic, clinical, and operative variables, and baseline patient-reported outcomes. Multiple imputations were used for missing values and multivariable logistic regression analysis was used to identify factors associated with higher odds of returning to work. Bootstrap resampling (200 iterations) was used to assess the validity of the model. A nomogram was constructed using the results of the multivariable model.

RESULTS

A total of 4689 patients were analyzed, of whom 82.2% (n = 3854) returned to work at 3 months postoperatively. Among previously employed and working patients, 89.3% (n = 3443) returned to work compared to 52.3% (n = 411) among those who were employed but not working (e.g., were on a leave) at the time of surgery (p < 0.001). On multivariable logistic regression the authors found that patients who were less likely to return to work were older (age > 56–65 years: OR 0.69, 95% CI 0.57–0.85, p < 0.001; age > 65 years: OR 0.65, 95% CI 0.43–0.97, p = 0.02); were employed but not working (OR 0.24, 95% CI 0.20–0.29, p < 0.001); were employed part time (OR 0.56, 95% CI 0.42–0.76, p < 0.001); had a heavy-intensity (OR 0.42, 95% CI 0.32–0.54, p < 0.001) or medium-intensity (OR 0.59, 95% CI 0.46–0.76, p < 0.001) occupation compared to a sedentary occupation type; had workers’ compensation (OR 0.38, 95% CI 0.28–0.53, p < 0.001); had a higher Neck Disability Index score at baseline (OR 0.60, 95% CI 0.51–0.70, p = 0.017); were more likely to present with myelopathy (OR 0.52, 95% CI 0.42–0.63, p < 0.001); and had more levels fused (3–5 levels: OR 0.46, 95% CI 0.35–0.61, p < 0.001). Using the multivariable analysis, the authors then constructed a nomogram to predict return to work, which was found to have an area under the curve of 0.812 and good validity.

CONCLUSIONS

Return to work is a crucial outcome that is being increasingly prioritized for employed patients undergoing spine surgery. The results from this study could help surgeons identify at-risk patients so that preoperative expectations could be discussed more comprehensively.

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Development and validation of a predictive model for 90-day readmission following elective spine surgery

Scott L. Parker, Ahilan Sivaganesan, Silky Chotai, Matthew J. McGirt, Anthony L. Asher, and Clinton J. Devin

OBJECTIVE

Hospital readmissions lead to a significant increase in the total cost of care in patients undergoing elective spine surgery. Understanding factors associated with an increased risk of postoperative readmission could facilitate a reduction in such occurrences. The aims of this study were to develop and validate a predictive model for 90-day hospital readmission following elective spine surgery.

METHODS

All patients undergoing elective spine surgery for degenerative disease were enrolled in a prospective longitudinal registry. All 90-day readmissions were prospectively recorded. For predictive modeling, all covariates were selected by choosing those variables that were significantly associated with readmission and by incorporating other relevant variables based on clinical intuition and the Akaike information criterion. Eighty percent of the sample was randomly selected for model development and 20% for model validation. Multiple logistic regression analysis was performed with Bayesian model averaging (BMA) to model the odds of 90-day readmission. Goodness of fit was assessed via the C-statistic, that is, the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC), using the training data set. Discrimination (predictive performance) was assessed using the C-statistic, as applied to the 20% validation data set.

RESULTS

A total of 2803 consecutive patients were enrolled in the registry, and their data were analyzed for this study. Of this cohort, 227 (8.1%) patients were readmitted to the hospital (for any cause) within 90 days postoperatively. Variables significantly associated with an increased risk of readmission were as follows (OR [95% CI]): lumbar surgery 1.8 [1.1–2.8], government-issued insurance 2.0 [1.4–3.0], hypertension 2.1 [1.4–3.3], prior myocardial infarction 2.2 [1.2–3.8], diabetes 2.5 [1.7–3.7], and coagulation disorder 3.1 [1.6–5.8]. These variables, in addition to others determined a priori to be clinically relevant, comprised 32 inputs in the predictive model constructed using BMA. The AUC value for the training data set was 0.77 for model development and 0.76 for model validation.

CONCLUSIONS

Identification of high-risk patients is feasible with the novel predictive model presented herein. Appropriate allocation of resources to reduce the postoperative incidence of readmission may reduce the readmission rate and the associated health care costs.

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An analysis from the Quality Outcomes Database, Part 1. Disability, quality of life, and pain outcomes following lumbar spine surgery: predicting likely individual patient outcomes for shared decision-making

Matthew J. McGirt, Mohamad Bydon, Kristin R. Archer, Clinton J. Devin, Silky Chotai, Scott L. Parker, Hui Nian, Frank E. Harrell Jr., Theodore Speroff, Robert S. Dittus, Sharon E. Philips, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Kevin T. Foley, and Anthony L. Asher

OBJECTIVE

Quality and outcomes registry platforms lie at the center of many emerging evidence-driven reform models. Specifically, clinical registry data are progressively informing health care decision-making. In this analysis, the authors used data from a national prospective outcomes registry (the Quality Outcomes Database) to develop a predictive model for 12-month postoperative pain, disability, and quality of life (QOL) in patients undergoing elective lumbar spine surgery.

METHODS

Included in this analysis were 7618 patients who had completed 12 months of follow-up. The authors prospectively assessed baseline and 12-month patient-reported outcomes (PROs) via telephone interviews. The PROs assessed were those ascertained using the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), EQ-5D, and numeric rating scale (NRS) for back pain (BP) and leg pain (LP). Variables analyzed for the predictive model included age, gender, body mass index, race, education level, history of prior surgery, smoking status, comorbid conditions, American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) score, symptom duration, indication for surgery, number of levels surgically treated, history of fusion surgery, surgical approach, receipt of workers’ compensation, liability insurance, insurance status, and ambulatory ability. To create a predictive model, each 12-month PRO was treated as an ordinal dependent variable and a separate proportional-odds ordinal logistic regression model was fitted for each PRO.

RESULTS

There was a significant improvement in all PROs (p < 0.0001) at 12 months following lumbar spine surgery. The most important predictors of overall disability, QOL, and pain outcomes following lumbar spine surgery were employment status, baseline NRS-BP scores, psychological distress, baseline ODI scores, level of education, workers’ compensation status, symptom duration, race, baseline NRS-LP scores, ASA score, age, predominant symptom, smoking status, and insurance status. The prediction discrimination of the 4 separate novel predictive models was good, with a c-index of 0.69 for ODI, 0.69 for EQ-5D, 0.67 for NRS-BP, and 0.64 for NRS-LP (i.e., good concordance between predicted outcomes and observed outcomes).

CONCLUSIONS

This study found that preoperative patient-specific factors derived from a prospective national outcomes registry significantly influence PRO measures of treatment effectiveness at 12 months after lumbar surgery. Novel predictive models constructed with these data hold the potential to improve surgical effectiveness and the overall value of spine surgery by optimizing patient selection and identifying important modifiable factors before a surgery even takes place. Furthermore, these models can advance patient-focused care when used as shared decision-making tools during preoperative patient counseling.

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An analysis from the Quality Outcomes Database, Part 2. Predictive model for return to work after elective surgery for lumbar degenerative disease

Anthony L. Asher, Clinton J. Devin, Kristin R. Archer, Silky Chotai, Scott L. Parker, Mohamad Bydon, Hui Nian, Frank E. Harrell Jr., Theodore Speroff, Robert S. Dittus, Sharon E. Philips, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Kevin T. Foley, and Matthew J. McGirt

OBJECTIVE

Current costs associated with spine care are unsustainable. Productivity loss and time away from work for patients who were once gainfully employed contributes greatly to the financial burden experienced by individuals and, more broadly, society. Therefore, it is vital to identify the factors associated with return to work (RTW) after lumbar spine surgery. In this analysis, the authors used data from a national prospective outcomes registry to create a predictive model of patients’ ability to RTW after undergoing lumbar spine surgery for degenerative spine disease.

METHODS

Data from 4694 patients who underwent elective spine surgery for degenerative lumbar disease, who had been employed preoperatively, and who had completed a 3-month follow-up evaluation, were entered into a prospective, multicenter registry. Patient-reported outcomes—Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), numeric rating scale (NRS) for back pain (BP) and leg pain (LP), and EQ-5D scores—were recorded at baseline and at 3 months postoperatively. The time to RTW was defined as the period between operation and date of returning to work. A multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression model, including an array of preoperative factors, was fitted for RTW. The model performance was measured using the concordance index (c-index).

RESULTS

Eighty-two percent of patients (n = 3855) returned to work within 3 months postoperatively. The risk-adjusted predictors of a lower likelihood of RTW were being preoperatively employed but not working at the time of presentation, manual labor as an occupation, worker’s compensation, liability insurance for disability, higher preoperative ODI score, higher preoperative NRS-BP score, and demographic factors such as female sex, African American race, history of diabetes, and higher American Society of Anesthesiologists score. The likelihood of a RTW within 3 months was higher in patients with higher education level than in those with less than high school–level education. The c-index of the model’s performance was 0.71.

CONCLUSIONS

This study presents a novel predictive model for the probability of returning to work after lumbar spine surgery. Spine care providers can use this model to educate patients and encourage them in shared decision-making regarding the RTW outcome. This evidence-based decision support will result in better communication between patients and clinicians and improve postoperative recovery expectations, which will ultimately increase the likelihood of a positive RTW trajectory.

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Predictors of extended length of stay, discharge to inpatient rehab, and hospital readmission following elective lumbar spine surgery: introduction of the Carolina-Semmes Grading Scale

Matthew J. McGirt, Scott L. Parker, Silky Chotai, Deborah Pfortmiller, Jeffrey M. Sorenson, Kevin Foley, and Anthony L. Asher

OBJECTIVE

Extended hospital length of stay (LOS), unplanned hospital readmission, and need for inpatient rehabilitation after elective spine surgery contribute significantly to the variation in surgical health care costs. As novel payment models shift the risk of cost overruns from payers to providers, understanding patient-level risk of LOS, readmission, and inpatient rehabilitation is critical. The authors set out to develop a grading scale that effectively stratifies risk of these costly events after elective surgery for degenerative lumbar pathologies.

METHODS

The Quality and Outcomes Database (QOD) registry prospectively enrolls patients undergoing surgery for degenerative lumbar spine disease. This registry was queried for patients who had undergone elective 1- to 3-level lumbar surgery for degenerative spine pathology. The association between preoperative patient variables and extended postoperative hospital LOS (LOS ≥ 7 days), discharge status (inpatient facility vs home), and 90-day hospital readmission was assessed using stepwise multivariate logistic regression. The Carolina-Semmes grading scale was constructed using the independent predictors for LOS (0–12 points), discharge to inpatient facility (0–18 points), and 90-day readmission (0–6 points), and its performance was assessed using the QOD data set. The performance of the grading scale was then confirmed separately after using it in 2 separate neurosurgery practice sites (Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates [CNSA] and Semmes Murphey Clinic).

RESULTS

A total of 6921 patients were analyzed. Overall, 290 (4.2%) patients required extended LOS, 654 (9.4%) required inpatient facility care/rehabilitation on hospital discharge, and 474 (6.8%) were readmitted to the hospital within 90 days postdischarge. Variables that remained as independently associated with these unplanned events in multivariate analysis included age ≥ 70 years, American Society of Anesthesiologists Physical Classification System class > III, Oswestry Disability Index score ≥ 70, diabetes, Medicare/Medicaid, nonindependent ambulation, and fusion. Increasing point totals in the Carolina-Semmes scale effectively stratified the incidence of extended LOS, discharge to facility, and readmission in a stepwise fashion in both the aggregate QOD data set and when subsequently applied to the CNSA/Semmes Murphey practice groups.

CONCLUSIONS

The authors introduce the Carolina-Semmes grading scale that effectively stratifies the risk of prolonged hospital stay, need for postdischarge inpatient facility care, and 90-day hospital readmission for patients undergoing first-time elective 1- to 3-level degenerative lumbar spine surgery. This grading scale may be helpful in identifying patients who may require additional resource utilization within a global period after surgery.